Disability Program

Disability Sports Australia - partnership

Disability Sports Australia (DSA) and the Australian Dragon Boat Federation (AusDBF) are steering towards a journey of accessibility. The strategic collaboration falls under DSA's Sports Incubator program, designed to empower sporting organisations to enhance inclusive pathways for individuals with a disability.

The long-term goal of this partnership is increased participation of Paradragons and more people with disability engaging in the sport.

The Sports Incubator program's overarching goal is to create environments so that people with disability can thrive and ensure organisations feel more confident and capable of delivering accessible programs.


'Impairment' or 'Disability'?

Although 'impairment' and 'disability' are often used interchangeably, the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) sees a clear distinction between them. It encourages everyone in the dragon boat community to treat the two words appropriately. For us:

an 'impairment' is the condition that a person is living with: while

a 'disability' is a restriction on that person's ability to carry out functions because of the impairment.

'Disability' is therefore related to context. For example, a visually impaired person has a sensory impairment that may make it difficult or impossible for them to drive a car safely; they are considered 'disabled' as far as driving is concerned, but the impairment may have little effect on their ability to paddle powerfully.

There is a variety of ways for individuals with disability to be involved in the sport of dragon boat.


Participation Pathways

Stay tuned for announcements regarding a pilot disability participation 'come and try' (program) at local clubs. 

Connect with local clubs through our Club Finder on the home page and check your suitability to be able to participate in local regattas and events with the club.


Invictus Australia 

Invictus Australia offers opportunities for veterans and their families regardless of abilities to engage with the many dragon boat communities across Australia.

To find out more connect with Invictus Australia staff through their Facebook group or email support@invictusaustralia.org 


High Performance Pathways (Paradragons)

As defined by IDBF: “Paradragons are dragon boat paddlers who are living with some form of physical, psychological, neurological, sensory, developmental, or intellectual impairment. The term is also used more generally to refer to a race category where some or all paddlers have such impairments.”


IDBF currently offers three racing categories:

  • Full Paradragon (PD1)
  • Partial Paradragon (PD2)
  • Specific Paradragon (PD3)


If you are interested in finding out more, email AusDBF at info@ausdbf.com.au or the relevant State Associations.


If you are interested in becoming involved with the Paradragons and become a ParaAthlete, email paradragons@ausdbf.com.au for more information.


More information can be found on the IDBF Paradragons page found here - https://www.dragonboat.sport/paradragons/


Introducing AusDBF Disability Ambassadors 

Lindy Hou - ACT 

Retired from Para-cycling in 2008. Linda became legally blind in 1996.

Linda tried lots of sports, however found dragon boat to be very inclusive.

"People of all abilities can participate in dragon boat with little modification required".

"I participated in a dragon boat team building exercise years ago with a group of Para-cyclists  who had a range of disabilities from arm or leg amputee, vision impaired and cerebral palsy - the experience  was amazing".

"I believe that building a culture of inclusion of all ability in sports can help break down barriers in our society".


Mark Kusin - WA

Mark has participated in dragon boat for 30 years, is a life member of his Club and served on the DBWA Board.

In 2023 Mark represented the 'Auroras; in the Senior C Division at the World Dragon Boat Championships.

Mark suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) (the retinas are dying from the outside in. "Over the years I have adapted my paddling as I could no longer rely on my eyesight to get the timing right. I listen carefully for the drumming sound of the paddles hitting the water and feel the rhythm of the boat, plus what my paddle, water and body are doing".

"I believe if something gives you enjoyment you should do all you can to foster, nurture and improve it".

Julie Pretner - VIC

Julie was diagnosed with Lupus in her mid 20s, three years after diagnosis she lost her central and peripheral vision.

Julie has 3 children.

Julie enjoys music, and playing sports growing up. 

"I have learnt that by listening to each other and working on strategies together, the majority of people are more than willing to accommodate and modify their approach enabling me to participate in activities".

"The reason to be an Ambassador is due to the experience I had when I first tried dragon boat. My friend who asked me to come along, had not informed the club of my impairment, the clubs members were  very welcoming. 

When I returned the next week, the club had taken it upon themselves to use a rubber mat to cover the gap between the dock and the boat enabling me to learn how to safely embark and disembark".